Press release from Artistic Image:
Cartoon Network and Artistic Image joined forces to create two national spots for presenting sponsor Kids Foot Locker for Cartoon Network’s 2012 Hall of Game Awards that combine bold 3D visual effects with a captivating live-action scenario. The :30 spot, ‘Promo,’  features four sneaker candidates - Jordan Retro 10, Reebok Zig, NIKE Diamond Turf and NIKE Kobe 7 – in the running to be named the sickest sneaker, inviting viewers to vote for their favorite on hallofgame.com/sneakers. It’s followed by a :15 commercial, ‘Winning Sneaker,’  which reveals the victor on Cartoon Network.
Artistic Image’s live-action director, Ken Soons and director of visual effects Ed Dye helmed their award-winning hybrid creative company’s collaborative production, CGI, animation, design and editorial team as they took Cartoon Network’s concept from pre-visualization to delivery.
The first spot begins with a live-action shot of boy standing in front of a stylized Kids Foot Locker store admiring the coveted sneakers displayed in the window, as the voiceover opens with, ‘It’s more than just a sneaker, it’s a dream of greatness.’ His imagination kicks in as he suddenly is transported into a dream-like CGI-driven reality where, while wearing oversized computer generated photo realistic pairs of each of the four brands of footwear, he participates in a succession of sports which raise his skill level to that of a sports superstar.
The child begins by making his way down a street as animated buildings fall into place surrounding the live-action with a surreal cityscape. Wearing NIKE Diamond Turf, he breaks into a dance move, as his confidence builds ‘with a new move and the attitude to go with it.’ He takes his place at the starting line alongside a drag car, and as he takes off 3D exhaust pipes shoot flames from the back of his Reebok Zigs, giving him the competitive edge as he jumps through a banner with the Foot Locker logo on it, and ‘finishes the race in style’. As the boy lands, a basketball court forms around him, where he ‘makes the game-winning play just before the buzzer’ donning a pair of Jordan Retro 10’s. And finally, sporting larger-than-life NIKE Kobe 7s, he takes his game to new heights as he dunks the winning basket. The power of his shot breaks the backboard and it shatters into a hail of 3D shards, jarring him back to reality, and once again he is standing in front of the Kids Foot Locker store’s window, gazing at the line-up of sneakers on display.
“Cartoon Network came to us with a great idea and script,” says Ed Dye. “I began creating the style boards for the spot as soon as we were awarded the job, and then we collaborated with Cartoon Network producer, Leslie Kleine, and senior writer and producer, Troy Gross during the conceptual stage of the project. Once the first set of boards was approved, we got to work detailing another series of boards for the live-action green screen shoot.”
“The blend of live-action and 2D and 3D animations make the spot come alive as the boy is transported into the dream sequence where, not only does he get to wear all four of the dream shoes, but he also jumps from one fun activity to another,” noted producer Fernanda Martin. “Artistic Image created everything, from the stylized Kids Foot Locker storefront and sneakers - to the whimsical, dream-like animation that conveys the thrill the boy felt during his fantasy journey.”
“Although the storyline called for a dream sequence, the client didn’t want it to be too childlike or cartoony. We found a balance by using 2D and 3D to enhance the action and the environment in the boy’s imagination and make it fun, while grounding it in realism,” said Dye.
“The biggest challenge was making the 3D shoes bend and move naturally, the way real footwear would when worn by a person, and an active one at that,” added Dye. “We needed to find the median between having the 3D footwear move naturally with the kid, while still being large in scale – so they would not interfere with each other and the actual movements of the child.”
“We shot the talent on green screen, so that we could create the environment around him in post,” said live action director, Ken Soons. “Because we needed to not only track the camera moves, but also track the 3D shoes to the kid’s feet, we placed tracking points on the green screen behind and under the talent, as well as on a pair of shoes that would later be replaced with the four pairs of hero 3D shoes. This allowed us to create the dream environment in post while making the child still look like he was actually in that environment. This shoot was super fun; however, the biggest challenge was having a young actor understand what each of the environments would be like when it was added to the shot later, as acting in front of a green screen can be difficult for even the most seasoned of actors.”
Maintaining that realism was particular important when it came creating photo realistic super-sized 3D sneaker. The modeling and texturing of the intricate details of the shoes had to be an exact replication, as any imperfection would misrepresent the product. Although the spot needed to be entertaining, its purpose was to showcase the shoes in a realistic way to motivate young viewers to go to hallofgameawards.com/sneakers and participate in the voting process for the the sickest sneaker.
The environments were also created in 3D. Some, like the Kids Foot Locker façade in the first shot, were created to look real, while the other environments in the dreamscape, like the city street, were textured in a cartoon-style that gave them a surreal quality.
Ed Dye directed the visual FX and designed the spots on Photoshop; visual FX artists Lee Kordel, Jeffrey Ling, Daniel Barnes and Jim Roberson did the modeling, texturing and lighting using Maya, Cinema 4D, After Effects; Daniel Wiggins created the animation in Maya; Owen Chikazawa and Andy Sapp did the color correction and final composite in After Effects. Ken Soons directed the live-action, which was shot on the state-of-the-art digital camera, the Arri ALEXA (http://www.arri.de/camera/digital_cameras ) by DP Nigel Rowe. Soons also brought his director’s eye to the cutting of the spots, which he edited in AI’s Final Cut suite.
The cross-platform job called upon Artistic Image’s digital team to worked on both the Cartoon Network’s broadcast spot, as well as create separate animations and elements for the Kids Foot Locker website.
“Our multi-discipline team is skilled at creating traditional broadcast spots and providing an efficiently bridge into the digital realm,” said Dye. “ We enjoyed having the opportunity to follow through on our creative vision and create media content for both platforms.”
“Artistic Image’s collective of talent and a full roster of production, CGI, design, editorial and finishing services, enabling us to accomplish everything in-house, under one roof – efficiently and meet a tight deadline,” said Martin. “And everyone was thrilled with the final product.”
“Cartoon Network came up with a wonderful concept, and we were thrilled that they called on Artistic Image to bring it to life,” added Dye. “Working with producer, Leslie Kleine, and senior writer and producer, Troy Gross was a great collaborative experience. Together we created spots that convey their messages with a captivating and fun visual story that uses a fusion of dazzling CGI, photo realistic rendering and innovative live-action to tell a compelling visual story.